The South Carolina deputy who arrested Georgia Southern’s quarterback after mistaking the bird poop on the hood of his car for cocaine is now the subject of an internal investigation.
Saluda County Deputy Charles Browder III is being investigated by his department after the July 31 arrest of junior Shai Werts, WTOC-TV reported.
Werts was stopped on suspicion of speeding while driving back from his grandmother’s home. Police charged him with cocaine possession after conducting roadside tests on a substance collected from the hood of his 2016 Dodge Charger.
The 21-year-old told deputies the substance was bird poop, according to dash camera footage posted online by Savannah news station WJCL.
“I swear to God, that’s bird doo-doo,” Werts is heard telling the deputy.
“I swear to God, it’s not,” the deputy replies. “I just tested it and it turned pink.”
The incident landed Werts behind bars and got him temporarily suspended from the team. His suspension was overturned two weeks ago after South Carolina prosecutors dropped the cocaine possession charge, university officials said.
Rick Hubbard, solicitor for the state’s 11th judicial circuit, said the decision to drop the charge against Werts was made before the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division informed his office that an analysis of the substance collected from the car proved not to be cocaine.
“Upon a thorough review of the report, the dash camera, and the body camera, Deputy Solicitor Al Eargle and I made the decision that the charge should be appropriately dismissed,” Hubbard said in a statement to AJC.com. “The charge lacks prosecutorial merit and the evidence is insufficient for the State to proceed.”
Werts was pulled over for speeding about 9 p.m, authorities said. He reportedly waited several minutes before pulling over, and called 911 to tell dispatchers he was taught to find a well-lit area before stopping for law enforcement.
“I play football, sir. I don’t do cocaine,” he told deputies as they arrested him. “That’s bird poop on the front of my hood.”
Werts told the cops he tried to wash off his windshield at a gas station, but only managed to spread the substance around.
Police theorized he tried to toss cocaine from his moving car and it landed on his hood and stuck.
Had his suspension not been overturned, the quarterback would have had to sit out the season opener against LSU on Saturday night.
Georgia Southern Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein said Werts will face no further disciplinary action, adding the suspension he already completed will “adequately serve as discipline” for his speeding charge.
“I have worked with Shai on a daily basis for three years, and these charges do not reflect the the young man I have come to know,” Kleinlein’s statement read. “Shai has had our unwavering support throughout this entire process. We are glad to put this incident behind us and focus again on football and the upcoming academic semester.”
Browder remains on duty during the investigation against him, according to the Greenville News. The newspaper reported that Browder resigned from his position with the Lexington County Sheriff's Office in December 2017 to avoid being fired for “conduct unbecoming of an officer.”
The Saluda County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return a call Friday afternoon requesting information about the internal investigation and Browder’s status with the department.
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